The transfer portal can be a tricky place, especially for a player who is assured playing time at his current school. Still, many college football players are always looking for greener pastures, when at times they are often in the best position for their current situation.
Apparently, Western Kentucky quarterback Austin Reed had second thoughts, deciding that the fourth transfer during his career may be one too many. Of course, it also helped that he signed an NIL deal with a local real estate company.
Still, this well-traveled quarterback pulled his name out of the portal and then enjoyed a stellar end of the season in leading the Hilltoppers to a 44-23 win over South Alabama in the New Orleans Bowl. He completed 36 of 55 for 497 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception while throwing touchdown passes of 39, 27, 1, and 44 yards.
Reed began his college career at Southern Illinois, where he redshirted his first year in 2018. He transferred to Division II West Florida in 2019. In his first season, he led West Florida to the Division II national championship, passing for 4,089 yards and 40 touchdowns. That season, Reed saved his best for the title game, passing for 523 yards and six touchdowns in West Florida’s 48-40 championship win over Minnesota State.
There was no season in 2020 due to COVID, but in 2021 he threw for 3,418 yards and 38 touchdowns during a 9-2 season at West Florida.
Reed (6-2, 230) then transferred to Western Kentucky for the 2022 season, and what a year it was. He threw for 4,744 yards, 40 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Reed threw three or more touchdown passes in seven games.
Another bonus is that Reed is playing for Tyson Helton, who is among the more underrated offensive minds in college football. Helton was a former quarterback at the University of Houston. His last two quarterbacks at Western Kentucky have been among the best in the country from a statistical standpoint.
A year ago, Helton further developed Bailey Zappe, who transferred from Houston Baptist, and in his one season at Western Kentucky, he threw for 5,967 yards and 62 touchdown passes, both single-season NCAA records, as the Hilltoppers went 9-5. Zappe is in the NFL with the New England Patriots and accredited himself well when he had to play earlier this year.
Obviously, Reed hopes to follow in his footsteps. There were reports that he was seriously considering transferring to Louisville before the NIL deal.
And NIL is changing things dramatically in college athletics and especially football.
It is especially pertinent to the quarterback position. There are quarterbacks who would be third-day selections in the NFL draft, who could make as much money with a good NIL deal as they would attempting to make an NFL team, with no guarantee of a roster spot.
Reed will no doubt be helped by the stability by playing for at least one other season under Helton and his pass-happy system.
After the New Orleans Bowl, Helton told reporters that it was Reed’s “most complete game.”
There can be arguments for staying put and arguments for finding a new home. What is most important is to get playing time. Look at quarterback JT Daniels. He is now on his fourth school after beginning at USC, moving on to Georgia, West Virginia, and now Rice. (More on Daniels and Rice in a future column.)
In this instance, it appears as if Reed made the best move. He will be in an offense that will showcase his skills on a team that should again be competitive. And depending on his NIL deal that is known or others that may not be, he seems well suited to prosper in a situation that was great for him his first year and could be better moving on.